SOUTH HILLS – When St. Louis traded postseason hero David Freese to the Angels for center fielder Peter Bourjos they immediately improved at three defensive positions.
Bourjos is so good in center, that he pushed Mike Trout to left field in LA.
Matt Carpenter is expected to shift to his natural third base position and prospect Kolten Wong will likely occupy second base. Those are two more defensive upgrades.
This is a big deal for the Pirates and the Reds because they held a considerable defensive advantage over the Cardinals last season.
The Reds led baseball in defensive efficiency, the measure of how many batted balls are turned into outs. Thanks to their defensive plan (shifting, groundballs and an athletic outfield) the Pirates ranked 5th in defensive efficiency.
The Cardinals ranked 21st.
The Cardinals are going to improve on that number.
— Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) November 22, 2013
The Cardinals closed the defensive divide in the NL Central on Friday and that means they widened the gap in the division.
This trade will allow the Cardinals to improve defensively, and it could be a dramatic improvement if manager Mike Matheny buys into more defensive shifting in 2014. Matheny said in Oct. the Cardinals didn’t shift as much because the staff wasn’t comfortable with it.
Of course if Matheny is not open minded to shifting, and he just singed a three-year extension, the Cardinals will not close the gap with their division rivals.
Now trading Freese for Bourjos weakens a lineup to a degree, and Carlos Beltran is a free agent, but Oscar Taveras is the top hitting prospect in baseball and figures to shift into right field.
The Cardinals’ lineup might take a slight hit but Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Shelby Miller, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal all got a little better Friday. That’s scary for the NL Central.
So can the Pirates respond by addressing their biggest liabilities: right side of the power field power, specifically first base?
IS KENDRYS MORALES THIS YEAR’S MICHAEL BOURN?
Remember when Michael Bourn received a qualifying offer last year from the Braves and languished on the free agent market until small-market Cleveland signed him on Feb. 12?
I wonder if free agent first baseman Kendrys Morales is this year’s Bourn.
The qualifying offer hurts Morales because every contending team would have to give up their 2014 first-round draft pick to sign him, also by turning down a one-year $14 million deal his asking price is probably a bit optimistic.
At the moment there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for Morales. I wonder if this could drive down the 30-year-old’s asking price and if he might find himself still unsigned after the New Year.
Morales might not be what he was in 2009, but he put up respectable numbers in an awful hitting environment last season.
His career triple-slash line: .280/.333/.480
He’s a rare switch hitter with power who doesn’t require a platoon partner.
It’s a long shot, but perhaps he could be on the Pirates’ radar in January/February of 2014.
Maybe the Pirates weren’t willing to go 2y/$18 on Marlon Byrd. But what about similar dollars for Morales if his number comes down? Unlikely but plausible perhaps.